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Lynne Nowick

From left, Anna Mcauley and Smithtown Councilwoman Lynne Nowick unveil the sign renaming Landing Avenue Park June 12. Photo by Kyle Barr

A Smithtown park now bears the name of Peter Nowick Sr., a man who current town board members say paved the way for what the Town of Smithtown is today.

He was one of the town’s founding =fathers … he served for near[ly] 20 years,” Smithtown Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) said. The councilwoman is related to the late Nowick Sr. through his son.

“He really shaped the town into the close-knit community it is today,” she said.

On May 8, the town board unanimously voted to rename Landing Avenue Park, and June 12 Nowick Sr.’s family members and friends along with local officials came together to celebrate Nowick Sr. and express how deeply he affected the makeup and ideology of the town.

Smithtown Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) looks at her late father-in-law’s World War II pilot’s cap. Photo by Kyle Barr

“I remember my early days here,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “Peter Nowick Sr. was one of the founding members of the town.”

Peter Nowick Sr. and his family moved to Smithtown in the 1930s. As a young man, he worked as a farmer on his father’s potato farm in Kings Park. Five days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps where he obtained the rank of major. He flew 35 combat missions in the Pacific theater during the war, including one where he was awarded a citation for leading his squadron on the deepest penetration into enemy territory by a fighter aircraft on a mission over Southeast Asia. Nowick was a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, five Air Medals and the Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon with two battle stars.

When he returned to Smithtown, Nowick was elected justice of the peace and later to the town board where he served for 20 years as chair on the town Planning, Engineering and Traffic Safety Committees. Nowick Sr. lived on Landing Avenue until he passed away in 2002 at the age of 84.

His niece Anna Mcauley remembers her uncle as a family man and a considerate public servant, who made himself available all hours of the day to help local residents.

An upclose look at Peter Nowick Sr’s WWII pilot cap. Photo by Kyle Barr

“The name Nowick still has a zing in Kings Park from all the people who remember him and what he did for the town,” Mcauley said.

Councilwoman Nowick remembered her father-in-law as stingy, yet extremely gracious person.

“Peter Nowick Sr. never had change [for] a hundred dollar bill,” she said. “If he sent you off for lunch as a secretary, you never got your money back because he said he only had a hundred dollar bill. But if you needed help — if your house was going into foreclosure, anything — he’d come up with whatever you needed to help.

Many years ago, Nowick Sr.’s friend, Robert Baffa, was visiting when he found the councilman’s old leather pilot’s hat. He jokingly put it on, remarking on how a simple hat was supposed to keep a pilot warm. Nowick Sr. asked Baffa if he wanted to keep it, and he still has it to this day.

“I think Peter would have really loved [the park’s renaming],” Baffa said. “I think he would have got a big kick out of it, seeing his name there like that.”

Ed Wehrheim is running for Smithtown Town supervisor. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Supervisor

We want Wehrheim to lead

It will certainly be a tough road ahead for whoever takes the seat of Smithtown supervisor this November after Pat Vecchio’s (R) 40-year reign at town hall.

But we believe Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R), who has worked in town government for more than four decades, will serve the role with a great deal of insight, familiarity, openness and forward-thinking leadership. He’s somebody who’s not afraid to shake things up, as evident in his shocking victory over Vecchio in September’s Republican primary, and could make for significant — and much-needed — changes in how Smithtown operates.

Getting his start as director of parks, buildings and grounds in 1971, and serving on the town board since 2003, Wehrheim is well experienced in bringing business developments to the villages and hamlets and helping to increase tax revenues to the town. He believes in righting the wrongs of how the government under Vecchio functioned, by moving ahead with stalled downtown revitalization plans, developing more residential housing, addressing the board’s lack of transparency between its members and making town hall a more approachable place for residents.

While we think Wehrheim is the right choice, we were extremely impressed by his independent opponent as well. Kristen Slevin, a young business owner with no government experience but plenty of initiative and energy to make up for it, is definitely someone to keep an eye on, and we hope that she considers running for town board or remains involved in politics in some capacity.

Town Board

Nowick, Lohmann a good match

The Town of Smithtown is on the brink of massive change, as the 40-year-reign of Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) comes to an end, and a new board will have major decisions to make about how to move forward.

Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) has served one four-year term in town, enough to get an insider’s perspective, and speaks bluntly about the concerns of residents in terms of local roadways and parking. She was also one of the only candidates to speak out on the larger looming issue of opioid and heroin abuse in Smithtown. She also served 12 years in the Suffolk County Legislature, gaining invaluable experience that we expect her to continue to bring to Smithtown as a voice of change.

We believe it would serve both the town and its residents well if she were to work closely with Conservative candidate Tom Lohmann. Lohmann speaks to public sentiment for a new comprehensive plan, improving traffic flow and also the need to address drug and gang issues. His experience as a former police officer and current investigator for Suffolk County lends a practical from-the-street insight much needed in the town.

It is our belief that this mixed team of Lohmann and Nowick could bring about the overhaul and revitalization Smithtown needs.

Conservative candidate Bob Doyle was similarly impressive with his ability to get directly to the heart of an issue and propose practical solutions for traffic, revitalization and violence issues. If he were to get elected instead of Lohmann, we are confident the residents’ best interests would be served. We hope Doyle and Lohmann will continue to work together after the election.

The Town of Smithtown will have a different look in 2018. File photo by Phil Corso
Tom McCarthy. Photo by Kevin Redding

Voters will have six diverse options when they step into the voting booth to select two candidates to represent them on Smithtown Town Board Nov. 7.

In a sit-down Oct. 26 at the TBR News Media office in Setauket, the six candidates stated their positions on downtown revitalization, traffic and what the biggest issue the town faces looking ahead to 2018.

Incumbent Councilman Thomas McCarthy (R), who is also the deputy town supervisor was first elected to the board in 1997. Incumbent Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R), a St. James resident and former Suffolk legislator for 12 years, is also seeking re-election.

Lynne Nowick. Photo by Kevin Redding

McCarthy and Nowick said they are proud of the work they have done to push forward the downtown revitalization of Lake Avenue in St. James. The issue in other areas, the incumbents said, is sewers for the town’s business districts. With New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) promising $40 million in state funds, it’s a project they said is slowly but steadily moving forward.

“We need to continue what we are doing,” McCarthy said. “We have a five-year plan that is the best five-year plan we’ve ever had.”

During her first term in office, Nowick said residents have reached out to her primarily regarding quality of life issues. If re-elected, she said she plans to focus on addressing the continuous need to improve the town’s roadways, sidewalks, parks and beaches; areas where she feels she can make a difference, as she said her ability to push revitalization is limited.

“I am frustrated with the landlords of these [downtown] buildings,” Nowick said. “We can’t have a community that’s alive unless the buildings have stores. What can we do to entice the landlords to bring in new businesses?”

Bob Doyle. Photo by Kevin Redding

Their Republican primary challengers have kept their names on the ballot because they said they believe the town needs sweeping change. Nesconset resident Bob Doyle, who served for more than 37 years in law enforcement and is a U.S. Army veteran, has joined with Tom Lohmann, of Smithtown, a former member of the New York City Police Department and current investigator for the county district attorney’s  insurance crime bureau. The pair is still running on the Conservative party line.

“First and foremost, the first thing you have to do is a comprehensive master plan done with the inclusion of the community,” Lohmann said. “By far, the biggest topics of concern are the downtown business district is dying and traffic.”

Tom Lohman. Photo by Kevin Redding

The Conservative candidates, if elected, said they want to update the town’s comprehensive master plan to include all hamlets, in consultation with civic groups and local businesses. Lohmann said to do this he would start up quarterly community meetings in different hamlets so town officials could sit down with residents to hear concerns and get feedback. Doyle vowed to seek a traffic study in conjunction with state and county officials, using the latest technology to find a solution to improve flow on Smithtown’s roadways.

“Traffic, bar none, is the biggest issue,” Doyle said. “Residents are extremely frustrated with the flow of traffic in Smithtown.”

His sentiments were echoed by Nowick and two other challengers.

Democratic candidates Amy Fortunato, a Smithtown resident of 30 years, and Patricia Stoddard, a retired Smithtown school district teacher, are both eyeing seats on the town board. They said the main issues of Smithtown are downtown revitalization, traffic and government reform, much like their opponents.

Amy Fortunato. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I think we need an overall town survey,” Fortunato said. “What type of stores do we want? What do we want to see downtown? We need a comprehensive master plan that would distinguish the business district using town code.”

McCarthy countered that there is funding proposed to be set aside in both 2018 and 2019 to help update and overhaul the town’s codes, which have not been updated in decades.

However, Stoddard said the need to update town code is similar to the need to update the town’s master plan — something citizens have begun on their own.

Patricia Stoddard. Photo by Kevin Redding

“We need a master plan so we have something to build toward,” Stoddard said, pointing to Smithtown United Civic Association’s recently released draft proposal that focused on the district’s New York Avenue building. “It seems like a really good start using smart growth.”

Both Democratic candidates said the Smithtown town board has been more adversarial than cooperative, with town board meeting agendas being difficult to understand and public details on capital projects hard to come by. They vowed to improve transparency through increased communications on the town website and social media.

The two candidates elected to the town board will each serve a four-year term and receive an annual salary of $68,500 based on the proposed 2018 budget, posted on the town’s website.

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Supervisor Pat Vecchio tears up as he learns Town Hall will be named in his honor. File photo by Phil Corso

Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) conceded that his challenger Edward Wehrheim has officially defeated him in the primary for town supervisor, bringing about the end to his storied 40-year reign.

Councilman Wehrheim (R) held a razor-thin edge over Vecchio, 2,822 votes to 2,783 votes, when the polls closed Sept 12. After all 373 absentee ballots were counted by the Suffolk County Board of Elections, Wehrheim’s lead increased and he was declared the Republican Party candidate.

Ed Wehrheim. File photo by Rohma Abbas

“I always anticipated it being a very close race,” the councilman said. “Supervisor Vecchio is a 40-year incumbent. I had no illusions it would be easy to win the primary.”

The Suffolk County Board of Elections began counting the absentee votes Sept. 25 with attorneys from both candidates observing the process. Wehrheim said his counsel kept him briefed throughout the day, but a winner wasn’t clear until around five minutes to 5 p.m. That’s when he learned he was still leading by 83 votes.

“The result is very gratifying as we put in two-and-a-half months of very hard work, it’s very gratifying,” the councilman said.

Vecchio admitted despite the initial polling results that “it did, it did, it did” still come as a bit of a shock. However, the supervisor said he first congratulated Wehrheim on his victory in the hallways of Smithtown Town Hall just days after the primary.

“I was resigned to the fact that I had lost on the night of the election,” he said.

Vecchio is the current longest-serving town supervisor in New York, first elected to the position in 1977. To his credit, his years in office have been known as fiscally conservative ones for Smithtown, leading the town to have a Triple AAA bond rating. It’s been predicted there will be no tax increase for residents in 2018.

Vecchio said that he’s no stranger to a close ballot count. He recalled that in his first general election he  won by a slim 67-vote margin.

“All good things come to an end. For now, I’m going to continue coming to work every day like I’ve done for 40 years.”

— Pat Vecchio

He’s faced numerous primary challenges from members of his own party before. In 2013, he faced off against former town Councilman Robert Creighton and prior to that, Jane Conway in 2005. The key difference was in both of these primaries, Vecchio had  decisive victories at the polls.

Vecchio said that despite facing the reality of his loss, he hasn’t given much thought to what he will do after office. 

“All good things come to an end,” he said. “For now, I’m going to continue coming to work every day like I’ve done for 40 years.” 

Wehrheim will face off against the Democratic candidate William Holst and independent Kristen Slevin in the general election. Wehrheim said he plans to take a few days to “catch his breath” before sitting down to plan his campaign strategy for the next five weeks.

“I appreciate the confidence of the Republican voters in Smithtown to give me the opportunity to run in the general election,” Wehrheim said. “If we are successful, I’ll be able to roll up my sleeves and get to work.”

Wehrheim will share the party line with incumbents Councilman Thomas McCarthy and Councilwoman Lynne Nowick this November. McCarthy and Nowick, while not endorsed by the Smithtown Republican Committee, kept their lead on challengers Bob Doyle and Tom Lohman despite the absentee ballots.

Incumbent Smithtown town councilmembers Thomas McCarthy (R) and Lynne Nowick (R) have beaten Republican Party-endorsed challengers Robert Doyle and Thomas Lohmann based on the unofficial Sept. 12 primary results. File photos

By Kevin Redding

Smithtown’s incumbents appear to have won the Sept. 12 Republican town board primary, but there are absentee ballots to be counted and the challengers aren’t backing down.

Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) has come out on top in the four-candidate race with 2,929 votes while Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) followed with 2,833 votes. Coming in third and fourth were challengers Bob Doyle (R) with 2,575 votes and Thomas Lohmann (R) with 2,543 votes, respectively, according to unofficial Suffolk County Board of Elections results posted Sept. 13.

Bob Doyle. Photo by Nicole Garguilo

“With Nowick and McCarthy, there are a number of absentees out,” said Bill Ellis, the Smithtown Republican Committee chairman. “I think Lynne Nowick will prevail, [but] there’s still an opportunity for Doyle and Lohmann to surpass McCarthy. It’s a bit of a long shot, but it’s a possibility.”

Nick LaLota, Republican commissioner for the county board of elections, said there are 322 absentee ballots as of Sept. 13. He said he expects the county may still receive a few dozen additional ballots over the next week. Absentee ballots must have be postmarked by Sept. 11 and received by the county by Sept. 19 to be valid.

Nowick, who was first elected to the board in 2013 and has served as an elected official for 22 years, has focused her bid for re-election on keeping taxes low, getting sewers into downtown areas like Kings Park and St. James, and maintaining Smithtown’s quality of life including its parks, beaches and roads.

“I, of course, am very happy to have been so successful,” Nowick said, of the town council results. “I think a lot of that success was that Councilman McCarthy and I worked for the town and cared for the town. When you’re here a lot of years and you’ve helped a lot of constituents along the way, make no mistake, constituent services are very important. When you help people for many years, it resonates.”

She said her sights are now set on the Nov. 7 election with plans to utilize the same campaign strategy.

“Look, this is what we’ve accomplished, this is who we are, and that is what we’ll run on in November,” Nowick said.

Tom Lohmann. Photo by Johnny Cirillo

McCarthy, deputy town supervisor who has been on the town board since 1998 and, if re-elected, said he looks forward to continuing his service to Smithtown residents alongside Nowick.

“I’m pleased that the voters saw fit to elect me,” McCarthy said. “It proves that all the hard work we do on a daily basis is appreciated and we appreciate their votes. We’ve had so many good initiatives that I’m happy to have championed over the last four years.”

The councilman has spearheaded multiple projects to revitalize the downtown areas — most recently pushing the infrastructure rebuilding of Lake Avenue in St. James and working to develop sewers with $40 million in state funds.

Doyle, a retired Suffolk homicide detective from Nesconset, and Lohmann, a former New York City police officer from Smithtown, ran on similar agendas to restore the town’s former glory, including its infrastructure, and create a more transparent board.

Despite being disappointed in the results and low-voter turnout, both challengers said they have every intention of continuing to run on the Independent and Conservative party lines in November.

“I am encouraged by the numbers and how well Tom Lohmann and I did against two very powerful incumbents,” Doyle said. “I’m looking forward to Election Day and taking our message to all of the voters in the Town of Smithtown. We truly believe we will be victorious in November. The fight has just begun.”

Lohmann echoed the sentiment.

“I plan to go forward with my quest into the general election and we’ll let the people decide,” Lohmann said. “I’ve never walked away from anything in my life, and I’m not starting now.”

Councilwoman Lynne Nowick smiles. Photo from Lynne Nowick

Smithtown Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) has been serving the public for more than 20 years, and she has no intention of slowing down.

The incumbent is looking for another term on the town board this fall, and said she wants to build on the successes of her two-decade long tenure.

“My heart is in it,” Nowick, a life-long St. James resident said in a phone interview. “I feel I am the best candidate because I have been working on this town for 22 years, and I will continue to work for this town.”

At the Smithtown Republican convention last month however, things did not go according to plan for the GOP town board incumbents, as chairman Bill Ellis led the way for three new challengers to get support from the party over Supervisor Pat Vecchio, Nowick and Councilman Tom McCarthy.

At the meeting Nowick said losing the nomination from the party would not deter her and she would “see them at the primary this September.” She said she preferred not to comment on the party division during the interview, saying she wanted to focus on her job.

She said her experience working in government for many years is a strong asset for her.

“I have a good rapport and relationships with county officials, as I worked with them for 17 years, and I feel that’s important to be able to work with them,” she said, referring to the years she served as a Suffolk County legislator for the 13th district.

During her tenure as a county official, Nowick said she was able to preserve properties and open space in Smithtown, including areas in Head of the Harbor, St. James and near the Nissequogue River. She said she was also able to secure funding for a sewer study project in Smithtown, and was instrumental in creating the first family concert series in Suffolk County, which was held in Smithtown.

“That was a shot in the arm for the community,” Nowick said. “It helped the town flourish by bringing families to the downtown area. That is downtown revitalization at its finest.”

Nowick added she was proud of the work she did focusing on keeping young kids safe and healthy.

She banned the sale of cough suppressants to young people, as well as the sale and possession of salvia, a psychoactive plant. She also worked to get a safety label put on energy drinks to warn consumers about the health risks, and created a drug take-back program in Smithtown.

“I was always trying to take care of the young people,” she said. “I believe parents aren’t always aware of the dangers.”

In terms of the success she’s had while serving as a town board member, the councilwoman said she’s proud of the town’s financial stability.

“We can brag about the fact that we have the gold standard on bond ratings with a AAA,” she said. “We’ve managed to maintain almost the lowest amount of debt per capita in Suffolk County, and our fund balances are strong and stable.”

She also highlighted the fact that Smithtown residents experienced a tax decrease this year, and there is expected to be no tax increase in 2018.

For the future, Nowick wants to continue to build on the sewer projects for the town, as well as improve infrastructure like the sidewalk project on Lake Avenue in St. James.

Vecchio praised Nowick’s efforts serving the town.

“She has been a diligent and dedicated councilwoman who has complete knowledge of all the issues that confront the town and she is an influential voice in meeting the issues,” he said in an email.

Councilman Tom McCarthy shouts in anger during the meeting. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

The Smithtown Republican Committee was anything but united this week at their convention while deciding which GOP candidates to support for town board positions.

It was revealed earlier in the week Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) was a contender for the GOP’s Smithtown supervisor nomination, although at the committee’s meeting Tuesday night, May 30, it was clear leadership believed Wehrheim is not the only change they have in mind.

After a roll call vote the results gave Wehrheim the comittee’s nomination instead of current Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) who announced his intentions to run for another term last month. Incumbent councilmembers Tom McCarthy (R) and Lynne Nowick (R) also lost the comittee’s nominations for re-election from their party, with the committee voting to support Robert Doyle, a retired Suffolk County detective from Nesconset, and Thomas Lohmann, a Suffolk district attorney investigator. None of the incumbents came out of the meeting defeated though, and are determined to claim victory in the primaries this fall.

“You’ll get an opportunity in September to vote the way you all want,” Nowick said at the meeting. “Here’s the problem…nobody is interested, if they were interested they would be here tonight. This shows a lack of unity in the leadership.”

Councilman Ed Wehrheim listens to a protester Tuesday night at the Smithtown GOP convention. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

Nowick was referring to the amount of proxy votes submitted — the majority of which went to challengers and not incumbents. She and other members of the party said the committee decided these changes last minute, and several members who sent in their proxy assumed the chairman would be casting their votes for the incumbents.

“You fixed this with proxies that no one even knew who they were voting for,” McCarthy said at the meeting. “Everybody gets blank proxies, they didn’t know they weren’t voting for their incumbents. It was a sham by you Bill [Ellis] and your lack of leadership. This committee was lied to. You led us to another split of the Smithtown Republican Party. You don’t know what the heck you’re doing.”

Ellis is the current chairman of the Smithtown Republican Committee, and said before the meeting he was confident that many members of the party wanted these changes.

“A lot of people support this,” Ellis said in a phone interview. Of the 180 members, Ellis cast proxy votes for dozens. As for the most controversial decision to try and unseat Vecchio, who was supported by the party in each of his previous campaigns over his 39-year tenure running the town, Ellis said he believes it’s the right decision.

“[Wehrheim] is the best man for the job,” he said. “The supervisor is 87 years old, and he’s not necessarily functioning like he did in the past.”

Ellis said there were several political reasons that led to the decision but would not go into any details.

As for the current leader of the town, he’s not swayed at all by the turn of events.

“I’m determined to get those signatures and win the primary,” Vecchio said in a phone interview. As for the decision made by Ellis and the leadership Tuesday night, Vecchio said he certainly doesn’t see it “as an example of a participatory democracy or very democratic at all.”

Marlene Wolke, who served as Vecchio’s secretary for many years, nominated him at the convention.

“I would be proud to nominate Patrick R. Vecchio who has served this town faithfully for the last 40 years,” she said. “He has done an outstanding job, I was proud to have served under him.”

Joanna Betts also spoke in support.

“I’m perplexed why we’re doing this when the town is run so finely by him,” she said.

But regardless of the divide in the party, Wehrheim came out the winner of the night, and thanked members for their support — despite having to wait several minutes for members to stop yelling in protest and calling for him to step down.

“I will say that this was a very difficult decision for me,” the councilman said at the meeting. “But I made it on behalf of this committee and the Smithtown community. I’ve worked 45 years serving this community and I will continue to do so with honor and integrity.”

It’s clear this primary will be anything but business as usual.

“This is no different than an election in the U.S.S.R, it’s fixed in advance,” McCarthy shouted at the end of the meeting.

“Mr. McCarthy I think needs to take a tranquilizer,” Ellis said in response.

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Smithtown Animal Shelter Director Sue Hansen, left, outlines candidates she helped seek out with hopes of hiring somebody to work with her team as an animal behaviorist. Councilwoman Lynne Nowick, center, and Supervisor Pat Vecchio say they are on board to hire someone. Photo by Phil Corso

After losing her volunteer advisory panel tasked with moving the Smithtown Animal Shelter into a new era, town Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) moved forward this week by inviting the shelter director to speak before the board.

Early this year, Nowick assembled a panel of animal welfare experts with hopes of soliciting their advice and bringing calm to a contentious conversation that has surrounded the shelter for the past year. That panel, however, called it quits at a town board meeting last week, accusing Nowick of being unable to respond to one of their top concerns of hiring a full-time animal behaviorist at the shelter with an annual salary of $45,000. In an attempt to set the record straight, Nowick invited new shelter Director Sue Hansen to speak at a work session on Tuesday morning about finding someone to fit the behaviorist role.

“The last meeting was a little bit contentious,” Nowick said. “I want the board to be aware of what we were doing as far as hiring our behaviorist and why we haven’t done certain things.”

Nowick’s former advisory panel consisted of animal welfare attorney Elizabeth Stein and animal welfare experts Lucille DeFina and Diane Madden. The three penned a letter to the board on Sept. 15 accusing Nowick of failing to serve as a bridge between the animal experts and elected town officials, raising the issue of the town neglecting to consider hiring a full-time animal behaviorist to train dogs at the shelter.

The letter was news to Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R), who told the animal experts that he was never made aware of any discussions regarding a behaviorist position.

“You guys got tricked,” Nowick said at the work session Tuesday. “They only wanted one full-time behaviorist. They didn’t want to consider anything else.”

Stein, DeFina and Madden did not return requests seeking comment.

On Nowick’s invitation, Hansen introduced two potential candidates she had vetted who could fill the role of an animal behaviorist at the shelter with hopes of finding homes for the eight dogs housed there: Michael Gould, owner of Hounds Town USA, and Aimee Sadler, owner of Dogs Playing for Life.

“These candidates would be available to work with the staff and make our dogs more adoptable,” Hansen said.

Both candidates, who did not return requests seeking comment, have extensive backgrounds in training dogs and also pet lovers on how to interact with them.

Gould, a Long Island native, has worked with the shelter in the past, helping some dogs train their way to becoming police dogs, Hansen said. If the board chooses to work with him, he would work as a volunteer to help train and assess Smithtown dogs and teach shelter staffers how to handle them. The proposal was met with satisfaction from board members, with Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) calling it a “great idea.”

Sadler, the other candidate for the job, would call on her experience working with other Island shelters including the Southhampton Animal Shelter to assemble socializing playgroups for dogs in Smithtown. Hansen said she’s had Smithtown shelter workers visiting Sadler’s programs over recent weeks to explore how her services could benefit the town. But the town would need to seek ways to fund it, she said.

The board asked Hansen to speak with the candidates and report back  how they might fill the Smithtown shelter’s needs before a deal is inked.

Residents have flocked to board meetings over the past year to air their grievances surrounding the shelter, accusing former Director George Beatty of mismanaging animals and staffers and honing in on various aspects of operations there. Beatty retired as director in August, prompting the hiring of Hansen.

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Vecchio memo puts end to weeks-long discussion over councilman’s plan to pay workers $9 an hour

Smithtown Town Hall. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Some Smithtown seasonal employees will have a little extra weight added to their wallets next year, but only by about 25 cents.

In a memo sent to the Town Board, Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) had made official the town’s commitment to including a minimum wage increase in the tentative 2016 budget for part-time summer positions. The discussion over whether or not to raise the minimum wage from $8.75 had been ongoing for several weeks since Councilman Bob Creighton (R) had introduced the proposal via a resolution at a recent Town Board meeting, but a disagreement over protocol had blocked the plan.

Creighton first brought the proposal to the board in August, but Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) floated a motion to table the proposal, which was unanimously approved.

The measure reappeared on the agenda at an early September Smithtown Town Board meeting and Nowick once again voted to table the discussion, drawing 3-2 split from councilmembers, with support from Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) and Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R).

“This doesn’t mean I am not in support of this,” Nowick said at the meeting after motioning to table the plan. “I want to look at the budget, which is not due for another 30 days or so.”

McCarthy, who voted in favor of tabling the discussion alongside Nowick and Vecchio, said in a phone interview earlier this month that he was in favor of raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour for the town’s seasonal workers, but believed it should be put into the budget. He also said he and his fellow councilmembers had full intentions of seeing the raise put into effect through the budget.

Creighton said the 25-cent raise for the town’s roughly 150 seasonal workers making $8.75 an hour would ultimately cost roughly $23,000, which he said could be factored into the budget now so the budget process could react accordingly.

Wehrheim said at the time that he was concerned with the way the procedure went through, given the fact that the councilmembers who voted against the resolution had weeks since it was last tabled to voice their concerns regarding its financial impact on the town.

Over the last several months, Smithtown resolutions for municipal hires showed workers being hired at rates anywhere from as low as $8 to as high as $16 per hour. The town, however, is not legally bound to abide by a minimum wage.

Councilwoman Lynne Nowick, second from left, sits at the table with advisory board members pictured left to right, Lucille DeFina, Diane Madden and Elizabeth Stein. File photo

The Smithtown Animal Shelter’s inaugural advisory council has called it quits.

It has been about eight months since Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) rolled out the panel of animal welfare experts, geared toward moving the town’s shelter forward, but those same experts spoke before the Smithtown Town Board last Thursday night, accusing Nowick of failing them as the shelter’s government liaison. Animal welfare attorney Elizabeth Stein read a letter she had sent to the board on Sept. 15, calling out Nowick for failing to serve as a bridge between the animal experts and elected town officials concerning one of the advisory group’s biggest points: hiring an animal behaviorist at an annual salary of $45,000 to train the eight dogs being housed there.

“We reassured the public, on countless occasions, that we were not on the advisory council as window dressing and that we would never compromise what we felt was necessary to protect the animals,” Stein said. “We were told the town council was supportive of our efforts, and were promised the council’s full cooperation. These promises were empty and the cooperation was never forthcoming.”

Stein said the experts were adamant about having an animal behaviorist working with the shelter dogs on a regular basis to address behavioral issues so they can find homes, but were stonewalled due to fiscal constraints.

In response, Nowick said she had brought the recommendation to the town attorney and comptroller, but had put it on hold when Susan Hansen took over for the retired George Beatty as shelter director in August.

“I did start the process of trying to get a behaviorist. We tried almost everything,” Nowick said in response to the advisory council resignations. “We talked item-for-item and decided to wait and see what the new director of the shelter wanted for the position.”

Stein and her former panel members, animal welfare experts Lucille DeFina and Diane Madden, said they had brought a potential candidate forward who was willing to take on the behaviorist role on a full-time basis. Nowick said she could not yet iron out a full-time contract due to fiscal constraints, but reiterated her commitment to the position by exploring if it could be done on a volunteer basis instead.

“A behaviorist is necessary to make the shelter a progressive, no-kill shelter,” Madden said to the board last Thursday night. “When you have a 2016 budget that has cuts and making do with what you have, you’re not going in the right direction.”

Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) told the animal experts that it was the first he had heard of their recommendation to install a behaviorist. In his remarks, the councilman said he felt it was unfair for the panel to place blame on the town board as a whole if Nowick was not communicating their concerns to her colleagues.

“I object to the finger being pointed at me,” he said. “There has never been a discussion by this board involving these recommendations at any time that I’m aware of. Perhaps this board should cease-and-desist doing business like that.”

That news left DeFina stunned.

“I cannot believe my ears, because Lynne Nowick was supposed to be the liaison, and she put together this committee and I watched her for months and months on the video tape at home, bragging about how great we were and all the wonderful things we did,” she said. “To find out that the board knows nothing about our requests for a trainer, which we were all asking for from day one — it’s hard to accept.”

At the end of the meeting, Hansen mentioned some of the improvements at the shelter she and her staff were ushering in, including a new dog-walking plan and training program for volunteers, while acknowledging that it was only the beginning of progress.

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